It's late, you've been watching the drove all day, and you just want to get back to the comfort of your cave. You count up the pigs and realize, to your dismay, that one has gone missing. Your boss, upon hearing about your shortcomings, sends you on your way, declaring that you ought to return with the pig or not at all. With bitter resignation, you wander into a dense forest. You're not really sure in which direction the pig headed; you only know that those rustling bushes may hold a clue...
This is where Lost Pig begins, a text adventure of interactive fiction that earned its author, Admiral Jota, first place in the IF Comp last November (2007), and Best Game in the Xyzzy Awards in March (2008).
You play as Grunk, a rather dim creature who works on a farm and who, evidently, loses a pig. Using your best typing skills, you must find your way through the forest and beyond to retrieve that darn swine. It won't be easy, since pigs in Grunk's world are not cooperative. Utilize your intuition (and maybe a little luck) and you'll find your way out of Grunk's mess in this hilarious and enjoyable game.
If you're not familiar with Interactive Fiction, it's a genre of games with roots back to the 1970's (thanks Wikipedia!). There are no graphics, just a description of your surroundings and available exits accompanied by a text prompt. Type commands into the prompt to navigate through the world—Lost Pig, like many other games in the IF community, provides you with a list of very basic commands to get you started, just type "Help."
You can't die in Lost Pig, but your adventure won't be an easy one. Since the pig is reluctant to join you back on the farm—and who can blame him—you'll have to work out how to catch him. You can gather clues from your environment, but Grunk's thoughts won't always give you as much help as you might think; his lack of intelligence manifests itself in some pretty hilarious ways. There is also a scoring system, with points given for doing certain things within the game. Some of these points come from doing very basic actions to get you through the game, while others are more obscure and may not be necessary to complete the game. The best thing you can do is be inquisitive and try everything!
Analysis: I love Interactive Fiction, a genre I was introduced to when Floatpoint was reviewed here about a year ago. What's great is that Lost Pig is on the lighter side. I found myself laughing most of the time while I gleefully wandered around. Grunk narrates the game in caveman-like diction, but this element never became annoying to me. It really serves to absorb you into the amiable character. The game isn't very long but offers up a relatively good challenge, particularly if you are unfamiliar with the genre.
Thankfully, there is a hint system to help you along. Unfortunately, I had to use it a few more times than I would have liked, because there are one or two points in the game that aren't very intuitive. The game world is also fairly small, and I tend to like IF games that span at least a few areas. This doesn't hurt the game, though, since there's quite a bit you have to do. There are even a few actions you can do with easter-egg-like results—and they really are terrific.
Lost Pig is unique and hilarious, stuffed to the rafters with personality. Don't be deterred by the lack of a graphic interface, just give it a try.
The links above point to JIG's internally developed Flash-based Z-Machine interpreter (thanks asterick!), with the story files hosted here by permission of the game's author, Admiral Jota. Basically that means you can now play these games in your browser rather than having to download and run the game in a standalone interpreter.
If you would rather download the game, you may do so at Admiral Jota's website. If you choose to download the game, you will need an interpreter to read the z-file, just like most IF games: try Gargoyle for Windows, or Zoom for Macintosh and Unix.
If you like "Lost Pig," take a look at other Interactive Fiction we've reviewed.